Burning books…

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Acts 19:11 God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, 12 so that when the handkerchiefs or aprons that had touched his skin were brought to the sick, their diseases left them, and the evil spirits came out of them. 13 Then some itinerant Jewish exorcists tried to use the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, “I adjure you by the Jesus whom Paul proclaims.” 14 Seven sons of a Jewish high priest named Sceva were doing this. 15 But the evil spirit said to them in reply, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are you?” 16 Then the man with the evil spirit leaped on them, mastered them all, and so overpowered them that they fled out of the house naked and wounded. 17 When this became known to all residents of Ephesus, both Jews and Greeks, everyone was awestruck; and the name of the Lord Jesus was praised. 18 Also many of those who became believers confessed and disclosed their practices. 19 A number of those who practiced magic collected their books and burned them publicly; when the value of these books was calculated, it was found to come to fifty thousand silver coins. 20 So the word of the Lord grew mightily and prevailed. 

Were you astonished as I was when reading v.11-12? Wow! I mean, that’s crazy! A garment that touched Paul’s skin was enough to heal people physically and spiritually. In John 14:12 Jesus said that future believers would do greater acts of power than he did. While that was a bit of an exaggeration given that no one after him ever rose from the dead, this passage in Acts points to the reality Jesus was naming. Simply amazing.

Then in v.17 and following we read that some new believers who had practiced magic “collected their books and burned them publicly”. That may not seem like a big deal, but it is. These Christian converts were publicly rejecting their former spiritual practices and gods. Remaining adherents to their spiritual beliefs would not have taken this well. They would have viewed those who burned their books, and renounced their practice of magic, as traitors and enemies.

Paul knew all about this sort of thing. One of the reasons that Jewish religious leaders were so vehemently opposed to Paul is because he was once one of them. By accepting Jesus Christ as Lord, and becoming a Christian apostle, he was renouncing his former way of life. In the eyes of many Jewish leaders he was a traitor deserving to die. It’s a miracle of God’s protection that Paul survived as long as he did before being crucified by Roman authorities in the city of Rome.

There’s something here for you and me as well. When the Lord grabs hold of us and we begin serving the Lord Jesus, there will be people in our lives who don’t understand our change of heart, our change of faith, our change of habits, our change of relationships. Some will be happy for us, but others will see it as a personal affront and reject us. That’s just how it goes in many cases. We will be perceived as traitors of sorts.

Lord Jesus, protect those who turn toward a new life in you. Give them strength to endure the blowback that comes from those who don’t understand. We pray this in your holy name. Amen.

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